Dear Father you are the giver of life and truth and grace. I thank you for all your mercies.
Read 1 Samuel 7:2b–17
Samuel Subdues the Philistines at Mizpah
Then all the people of Israel turned back to the Lord. 3 So Samuel said to all the Israelites, “If you are returning to the Lord with all your hearts, then rid yourselves of the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths and commit yourselves to the Lord and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.” 4 So the Israelites put away their Baals and Ashtoreths, and served the Lord only.
5 Then Samuel said, “Assemble all Israel at Mizpah, and I will intercede with the Lord for you.” 6 When they had assembled at Mizpah, they drew water and poured it out before the Lord. On that day they fasted and there they confessed, “We have sinned against the Lord.” Now Samuel was serving as leader[a] of Israel at Mizpah.
7 When the Philistines heard that Israel had assembled at Mizpah, the rulers of the Philistines came up to attack them. When the Israelites heard of it, they were afraid because of the Philistines. 8 They said to Samuel, “Do not stop crying out to the Lord our God for us, that he may rescue us from the hand of the Philistines.” 9 Then Samuel took a suckling lamb and sacrificed it as a whole burnt offering to the Lord. He cried out to the Lord on Israel’s behalf, and the Lord answered him.
10 While Samuel was sacrificing the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to engage Israel in battle. But that day the Lord thundered with loud thunder against the Philistines and threw them into such a panic that they were routed before the Israelites. 11 The men of Israel rushed out of Mizpah and pursued the Philistines, slaughtering them along the way to a point below Beth Kar.
12 Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer,[b] saying, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.”
13 So the Philistines were subdued and they stopped invading Israel’s territory. Throughout Samuel’s lifetime, the hand of the Lord was against the Philistines. 14 The towns from Ekron to Gath that the Philistines had captured from Israel were restored to Israel, and Israel delivered the neighboring territory from the hands of the Philistines. And there was peace between Israel and the Amorites.
15 Samuel continued as Israel’s leader all the days of his life. 16 From year to year he went on a circuit from Bethel to Gilgal to Mizpah, judging Israel in all those places. 17 But he always went back to Ramah, where his home was, and there he also held court for Israel. And he built an altar there to the Lord.
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
ReflectJust relax. Breathe in deeply. It’s time for a fresh start. Listen out for God’s word to you!
In many parts of the world, September sees the start of a new academic year, the opportunity for a fresh start. This chapter feels a bit like that, though before anything can happen, attitudes from the past need to be cleansed. Samuel reappears, announcing it is not enough to say you want to turn back to the Lord. Actions demonstrate how genuine you really are. Notice in just how many ways Samuel acts wisely as a leader.
At last, the people cry out to God to save them. They have good reason to panic, but Samuel remains in calm control. And the Lord rescues them in a dramatic way (v 10). Samuel boldly named the memorial stone Ebenezer – ‘Thus far the Lord has helped us’ (v 12). It is a wonderful statement of trust in God, tinged with a determination to continue to do so, long into the future.
Israel’s fresh start is first and foremost a renewed commitment to live in a way that pleases God. New Year resolutions rarely last more than a few days because any new intention needs to be accompanied by action, strategy, and determination. Is there one area of life where you long for change? God can not only rescue you, but will also enable you by his Spirit to persevere.
‘Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.’ Psalm 51:10
Gracious God, you keep your covenant and you are faithful to your promises. Forgive me for my sins and inconsistencies, and empower me for a faithful walk with you.
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